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Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker

07 Sep 04 - 05:13 AM (#1265822)
Subject: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Dave the Gnome

In Gorton, Manchester there was a local hero known as 'Bouncing Billy Barker'. His feats jumping were legendary and won him many a bet. I'm sure there used to be an online article in the Manchester Evening News archives but I can't even find the archives now!

One of his tricks was to lump over a horse from a standing start! Another was 'egg jumping' - He would put an egg on a stand and then 'bounce' on it without breaking the shell. He put blacking on the soles of his shoes to rub off on the egg and prove he had in fact touched it.

His most famous trick, however, was bouncing over the canal. Again from a standing start he would jump towards the opposite bank 'bounce' on the water the middle and then make it to the other side. As an encore he would do the same from the opposite back - but backwards!

His technique was to hold two weights in his hands and swing them - using the momentum to carry him to the other side. I never saw him as he died in the 60's I think well before I had even heard of him. I would have loved to have seen him in action though. Tony Hill, who's obituary (sadly) got me to thinking about Billy, wrote a song with the chorus

"Lay your money down, It can't be done
Cried many a remarker
Who's now heard of Gorton Town
and Bouncing Billy Barker"

Anyone heard of anything similar?

Cheers

DtG


07 Sep 04 - 08:40 PM (#1266415)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Compton

The Black country had a hero called "Springheel Jack" that could jump across canals landing on the water then jumping off and onto dry land!


08 Sep 04 - 05:28 PM (#1267105)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Dave the Gnome

Sounds like the same technique! Wonder if anyone still does it?

DtG


08 Sep 04 - 06:23 PM (#1267148)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Compton

It's not easy!!


09 Sep 04 - 01:59 PM (#1267756)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Les in Chorlton

Great song, great song and songwriter Tony Hill sorry to say see Obit. Gorton Tank did a great version of it with Chris Cole giving serious, but tasteful vocals.

Great Urban myth though.


09 Sep 04 - 02:39 PM (#1267787)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Josher

Not sure it is a Urban Myth, seem to remeber Granada Local news in the days of Black and White TV interviewing him at the side of the Ashton Canal and him then performing his jump across the canal


10 Sep 04 - 02:54 AM (#1268305)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Dave the Gnome

And as I said earlier - there was an MEN article in the archives. Unless I dreamt it:-)

Cheers

DtG


11 Feb 05 - 01:10 PM (#1406057)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Jed, Newton Heath

The man in question was William Scruton, late of Woodhouse St in Gorton. He was my grandfather.

He used to do feats of strength and jumping tricks at the music halls. Also he would make money by betting a crowd that he could jump the canal locks in Openshaw - then make some more by jumping the lock backwards.

As a true showman he would often do his jumping feats with a heavy weight in each hand. Only close friends and family knew his secret - that this was not a handicap, but he actually used the momemtum of the swinging weights to jump further, giving the impression that he was bouncing off the canal water or in and out of a barrel of eggs.

I'm very proud that so many people remember him.

jed.scruton@tiscali.co.uk


11 Feb 05 - 02:25 PM (#1406164)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Bernard

And so you should be!! ;o)


12 Feb 05 - 04:01 AM (#1406958)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Les in Chorlton

He was clearly a great illusionist.

Perhaps we could practice in the garden with weights and see if the basic idea of using weights to go further works?


22 Jan 07 - 12:27 PM (#1944417)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Stuart in Hyde.

Isnt it funny where google brings you?

I am Stuart Smith, Billy Barker was my Great Grandfather, (Jed Scruton who wrote above 2 years ago is my Uncle)

I have the original Manchester Evening News page with his picture and a small article about him, if there is any further interest on this topic I will scan it and load it up to my server and post a subsequent link here.

His jumping feats were well documented also on Granada Reports on one occasion I am told. I know the Openshaw canal locks stories, as well as the jumping into a box of eggs and out again and also snuffing out a lit candle that was in the mouth of a man lying on the floor.

I was never fortunate enough to meet him as he died before I was born but my Grandmother (Mother of Jed above) regaled me with his tales often as a child.

So Bouncing Billy Barker was not an urban myth.


22 Jan 07 - 02:05 PM (#1944550)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Bernard

Wow!

Not a word I normally use, but I'm stuck for anything more suitable!!

I'd love to meet up with you, and possibly do an interview for Radio Britfolk about him!

My email address (as a 'Guest' you can't 'PM' me...!) is mudcat at bernardcromarty dot co dot uk - remove the spaces and change the appropriate words!! Curse those spammers!


22 Jan 07 - 02:38 PM (#1944581)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Mark Dowding

I don't know if this song has been recorded "properly" but I'm sure I've got either Tony Hill or Gorton Tank performing it at the Unicorn in Manchester in about 1983/4 on a tape that's floating round my garage - probably in the same box that had the Ted Edwards tape that Ted asked me to release. I'll have to have a look but don't hold your breath - the garage is full of boxes from my house move!

I hope Bernard can get an interview with Stewart and/or Jed for archiving.

Cheers
Mark


22 Jan 07 - 02:42 PM (#1944588)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Bernard

Ain't it great when a plan comes together?!

;o)


22 Jan 07 - 02:59 PM (#1944607)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Mark Dowding

I've been through my records o stuff I've recorded and although I can't find Tony Hill singing it I have got Gorton Tank singing it at Harry Boardman's club at the Unicorn in Church Street, Manchester on May 12th 1984 as part of their first set - third song in after some polkas to start and "Granny's Old Arm Chair" Other than that I can't tell you any more. Now all I need to do is find the tape and get a copy to Bernard!

Cheers
Mark


22 Jan 07 - 05:15 PM (#1944735)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: MoorleyMan

I know Geoff Higginbottom sings the song too, it's in his current set but I'm not sure whether he's recorded it?


22 Jan 07 - 05:59 PM (#1944809)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST

My husband Chris Cole is playing the song now as I type. What do you want to know?
Bernard - we have established contact with George and Chris has a local booking lined up, where I am sure he will play BBB


22 Jan 07 - 06:24 PM (#1944837)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Chris Cole

We actually had a picture of Billy, which we obtained from his daughter,who used to drink in The Royal Oak, which backs on to Woodhouse Street,where she lived with her father. If anyone needs the words to the song, I can supply them. Incidentally, Billy had a protege called Tony McCabe, who lived in Droylsden. He once attempted the "egg jump" on a North West TV programme and failed miserably! i never saw Billy perform, but there were plenty of people in Gorton and Openshaw who could testify to his feats-I understand that these placed enormous strain on his heart, to the extent that they caused the muscle to move several millimeteres each time he performed them.
Belated thanks to Mark for the words to "A Weavers Song"-I'm glad to say that after a number of years in the folk wilderness, I've now begun to perform again, and include the song in my repertoire.
          Chris Cole
          Wigtownshire
          Scotland


22 Jan 07 - 06:39 PM (#1944858)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Bernard

I knew Tony Hill who wrote the song, and it came as a shock when he died.

Mark Dowding had given me a recording of me playing at Harry Boardman's club at the Unicorn - and Tony was singing on the recording just before me. Spookily, Paul Connor sang after me on that same recording... and he's also dead now.

I've known about "Billy Barker's" exploits for some time - thanks to Tony's song - so it would be nice to interview someone from his immediate family, if only to lend a bit of credence to the 'legend'.

It would be even better to get me old mate Geroff (sic!) Higginbottom in on the act, as he definitely performs the song regularly.

My attic is a recording studio, and I live in Farnworth (near Bolton)... so let's see what we can do!


22 Jan 07 - 06:41 PM (#1944860)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Bernard

I forgot to mention - my studio is geared up to do telephone interviews if need be...


22 Jan 07 - 06:43 PM (#1944864)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Chris Cole

Bernard - I would love to help. I will PM our phone number.
Cheers
Chris


22 Jan 07 - 06:59 PM (#1944886)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: The Fooles Troupe

The technique sounds remarkably like the ancient Greek Olympic 'triple-jump' or 'long-jump' using swung weights.

There have been a couple of TV documentary series about recreating the original Olympic games that came out about the time of the recent Greek Olympics. This showed the basic technique of swinging the weights to increase the distance. They got pretty close to documented historical distances in all the sports. No times were of course kept for 'races'.


23 Jan 07 - 06:22 AM (#1945261)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Scrump

Remember, in them days the canals were very different from now. You could probably bounce across on all the old prams and dead dogs :-)


23 Jan 07 - 06:36 AM (#1945273)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Bernard

Not to mention the scum...!!


23 Jan 07 - 07:05 AM (#1945292)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Brian Peters

Nice to see Tony Hill getting some recognition, and Billy Barker's descendents chipping in. I recorded Tony's "Ninian South" years ago and messed about with "Song of the Irwell" at one point. Does anybody do that one? He was a good guy.

And hello to Chris Cole - happy memories of the Unicorn in the 1980s. I always enjoyed the Half Man Half Biscuit songs - in fact I was having a laugh about the line "my travelling army of synthetic supporters" (from the Subbuteo Song) only the other day!


23 Jan 07 - 07:27 AM (#1945303)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Les in Chorlton

It was indeed a great fun song and Gorton Tank did it, and many other songs and tunes great justice.

I hate to be a pain but if you jump into a canal with big weights for will find jumping out a bit of a problem. But I wouldn't want the laws of physics or even common sense to spoil an excellent song.


23 Jan 07 - 07:35 AM (#1945307)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: The Fooles Troupe

"if you jump into a canal with big weights"

If had seen the documentaries I saw about the 'classical olympic games greek triple jump with weights', you would realise that particluar bit of 'common sense' is not really based on the real physics of inertia and momentum.


23 Jan 07 - 07:44 AM (#1945314)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Scrump

Not to mention the scum...!!

Bernard, that's not very PC of you - "the disadvantaged" is the term I believe :-)


23 Jan 07 - 12:58 PM (#1945669)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Chris Cole

Half Man Half Biscuit are still going strong
http://www.hmhb.co.uk/
Incidently, did you know that Andy Kersahw described them as Britain's Best Folk Group. They went down a storm at Brampton Folk Festival and must have inspired this web site, which is worth a potter round.
http://www.brampton-bugle.co.uk/brampton-folk-festival/


23 Jan 07 - 05:12 PM (#1945919)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Bernard

Aaah... but I said 'Not to mention...'!!

;o)


24 Jan 07 - 06:31 AM (#1946428)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Mark Dowding

The good news is I've found the tape with Gorton Tank singing Billy Barker, etc. This is what's on the tape - a song from Brian as a bonus!


Harry Boardman        Coalowner and the Pitman's Wife, Teaching The Creel
Gorton Tank        Polkas, Granny's Old Armchair, Billy Barker, Lish Young Buy A Broom, Tunes, The Collier Brig, Tunes
Bob Morton        Nellie O Bob's At Crowtrees, Sister Suzie, Tunes, Jeeves Reel
Brian Peters        Ballad Of Springhill
Gorton Tank        Tunes, Captain Webb, Gorton Town, Handloom Weaver's Lament, ?, My Way, Tune-Liliburlero

I'll get it copied for Bernard - hopefully by tomorrow night when I'll see you at the Railway in Lymm!

Cheers
Mark


24 Jan 07 - 06:49 AM (#1946440)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Brian Peters

Bloody hell, Ballad of Springhill, that must have been a few years back! Good song, I should relearn it sometime.


02 Feb 07 - 11:12 AM (#1955659)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Stuart in Hyde.

After the interest was revived a little in this topic, I dug out my newspaper clipping and put it on the net. It can be found here:

http://www.angelfire.com/zine2/remailing/Billy_Barker.jpg

(Sorry if there is pop ups but it is on free pages)

Out of courtesy I e mailed Dave The Gnome who started this thread back in 2004. He replied and took a look. Also I have since had an e mail from Bernard with a view to doing the interview he mentioned so it looks like that can be put together.

Interesting for me as I have never heard this song that you guys speak of. I am looking forward to hearing it!

As a side note to Chris: You are right about Tony McCabe, he is mentioned in teh article I scanned above. What else do you know fo him? Also, you mention drinking with Billys daughter in The Royal Oak in Gorton, would that have been Ivy?


02 Feb 07 - 07:13 PM (#1956102)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Mark Dowding

What a good article/picture!

The blue clicky to the site is Here

I found the recording of Gorton Tank singing the song and passed a copy to Bernard for any programme he might be doing. Whilst it isn't a brilliant recording it is listenable to and is a memory of a time from the days of the Unicorn folk club. | hope Bernard finds a use for it.

Looking forward to the programme.

Cheers
Mark


08 Apr 07 - 09:11 PM (#2020186)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Stuart in Hyde.

No word on the Radio prog yet.

Can anyone send me the recording of this song please?


09 Apr 07 - 04:43 AM (#2020328)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Mark Dowding

Hi Stuart

Can you send me your email address and I'll send you an mp3 file of the song.
cheers
Mark
mark@markdowding.co.uk


09 Apr 07 - 10:16 AM (#2020450)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Bernard

Shouldn't be long, now - Ali is recovering well from her 'reversal' operation, and should be settling down to what passes for 'normal' any time now!

It's been a wee bit hectic of late what with festival commitments and the new radio programme on Oldham Community Radio...


10 Apr 07 - 10:05 AM (#2021326)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Flash Company

Used to work in Newton Heath, and there is a community centre on Oldham Road with a mural on the outside wall showing local scenes and characters. One of the characters is a long legged man jumping over the canal with weights in his hands.

FC


24 Apr 07 - 04:50 PM (#2034722)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Mark Dowding

Whilst transferring boxes of rubbish - sorry my valuable belongings from the boxes in the garage to the study after six months (you know what it's like when you move house!) I've just come across a CD that someone made of people singing at the Unicorn in Manchester - it wasn't just me doing that - and it has Tony Hill singing Billy Barker. I shall get that off to Bernard forthwith or even fifthwith.

Cheers
Mark


24 Apr 07 - 06:14 PM (#2034783)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Chris Cole

It would be great to have a copy of that recording Mark. I will PM you our address here in Scotland


25 Apr 07 - 02:52 AM (#2035063)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Mark Dowding

Thanks Chris - got your address. I'll get something in the post to you in the next couple of days.

Cheers
Mark


20 Nov 07 - 03:49 PM (#2198602)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Stuart in Hyde

Well thanks in part to you good folks, I made a small web page at www.billybarker.co.uk I just e mailed mark for the MP3 if he is still around, if any of you guys know more, shoot me a mail via the link on the site. ;-)


20 Nov 07 - 03:54 PM (#2198609)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Les in Chorlton

Look I love the song, especially Gorton Tank doing it but I challenge anybody to do what Billy claimed.

Unweaving the canal Les


20 Nov 07 - 05:15 PM (#2198688)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Mark Dowding

'Course I'm still around. I've emailed both versions of the song that I have to Stuart.

Now then Bernard, how is that radio show going?

Cheers
Mark


21 Nov 07 - 06:49 AM (#2199079)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Stuart in Hyde

Yes I got those, big thanks to Mark, I shall find out how to imbed them on the site in the next day or two.

If Bernard ever finds time to do that show, I can put that on the site too.

Thanks again guys!


10 Dec 07 - 01:36 PM (#2212580)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Stuart in Hyde.

Just a quickie to say I got around to putting the MP3s mark sent me on the page, so Thanks again to the guys here for giving me the inspiration to put it together.

Stuart

www.billybarker.co.uk


10 Dec 07 - 02:23 PM (#2212612)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST

Hi Folks
As Tony Hill's widow I'd love a copy of the song. Although can I say he wasn't fond of it. He didn't think it was one of his best and I tend to agree but it chronicles a little bit of Gorton history.
Thanks
Jeanette


10 Dec 07 - 03:39 PM (#2212645)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Jack Blandiver

Vivian Stanshall namechecks Barkers exploits in 'Sir Henry at Rawlinson End' ; I thought this was entirely his own invention until we saw Geoff Higginbottom at Fleetwood a couple of weeks back & he sang the song and alerted us to the website...


10 Dec 07 - 07:08 PM (#2212769)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Mark Dowding

Hi Jeanette

Can you email me please on mark@markdowding.co.uk with your address and I'll be pleased to send you a CD of the songs that I have of Tony on tape including Billy Barker. These were made in 1983/84 either at the Unicorn or at the Star Inn folk club in Salford.

Cheers
Mark


03 May 10 - 06:03 PM (#2899377)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Garry Nevin...

Greetings All,
I knew Tony Hill through the Eagle and Child Folk Club, Whitefield Manchester in the early 1980's and Bouncing Billy Barker was always a favourite of the regulars and the whole room would resinate when we all sang the chorous. Tony was a lovely chap and he gave me a book of his songs once which has sadly been lost in various house moves.
A fine chap singing about a remarkable character....and I for one believe all the feats attributed to the one and only "Bouncing Billy Barker" and what a huge delight to find Tony singing the song on the internet-brought back many fond memories of The Eagle and Child.
Kind Regards All,
Garry Nevin
Picton New Zealand


06 Jun 12 - 07:52 PM (#3360252)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Stuart in Hyde

Just to revisit the topic two years later, there is now an associated blog post that can be found here: Bouncing Billy Barker

There are a few comments from locals and family members.

The domain billybarker.co.uk, the blog post and the other stuff on our sites relating to Billy all stemmed from Mudcat here - so thank you to all the participants once again.

Anything else anyone knows about Billy, please make contact through the blog.


07 Jun 12 - 02:50 PM (#3360578)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Raggytash

I was very pleasantly amazed to see this thread, over a few pints I have often regaled people with the tale of Bouncing Billy Barker from my youth. The most frequent response is "eh up, old motor mouth is spinning another load of old waffle". Although I never saw the canal jump performed myself, my Dad did and I think won a few quid on the successful completion of Bouncing Billy's endeavours, if I'm not mistaken he once jumped the Bridgewater canal near Barton Bridge, possibly during my early years in the late fifties.


07 Jun 12 - 04:15 PM (#3360613)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: Dave the Gnome

I'm thrilled to have started something with such a satisfying conclusion :-) I can take no credit but I do like to think that a little question, posed 8 years ago, had a bit of something to do with the blog and Billy's more recent fame!

Thanks to all who contributed.

DtG


05 Jul 13 - 02:16 PM (#3534102)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Bouncing Billy Barker
From: GUEST,Stuart in Hyde

Dave,

Yes! You can take the credit for that. Indeed I credit the good folk at Mudcat for giving me the inspiration to put something up.

I've recently had a few newspaper cuttings sent to me, and as well as the blog post that has garnered some contact and interest of various people, the original page is still up here: www.BillyBarker.co.uk where you can listen to the two songs kindly supplied by Mark Dowding.

When I get time, I shall put the domain on its own account and combine everything into one place.

The reply is a year late, but I get there in the end.

Greetings and thanks to the good folk at Mudcat!